Covid-19: is private aviation past the turbulence?

aviation-covid (1)

If the private jet industry has been able to withstand the unfavourable coronavirus winds, the private aviation resale market is struggling to take off.  


In a recent exclusive interview with Monaco Tribune, Franck Goldnadel, director of the Nice-Côte d’Azur airport acknowledged the importance of business aviation for the Riviera. In any normal year, private jets represent between 30% and 40% of air traffic in Nice. While 2020 did see a drop in business travel, Goldnadel reports that the sector “has not been as affected by the pandemic as commercial flights.” One of the reasons that may help explain the difference is the reliability of flying privately in a year where commercial flights have seen cancellation upon cancellation.

Flying privately is safer

Another factor is the sense of safety that comes with private jets. However, Franck Goldnadel is keen to stress that “planes, thanks to filters, have air as pure as that of hospitals.” Safer and easier of access, business flying seems to have the two coronavirus trump cards up its sleeve. And yet, sales of private jets have had some trouble taking off in 2020.

It’s been a rock’n’roll year

Some trouble already in late 2019

“It has been a rock’n’roll year,” says Thierry Boutsen, former F1 pilot and now head of Boutsen Aviation, an aircraft resale company based in Monaco. “In December 2019, we started to see the first signs of the slowdown because China was already under lockdown at the time, and we had big customers there.”

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Then came European lockdowns, and everything came to a standstill. “A big blow” for Thierry Boutsen, because aircraft sales were almost non-existent in the spring and early summer. It was not until August that the Monegasque company was able to see the beginning of a recovery.

Thierry Boutsen
Thierry Boutsen

More offer, but less demand

How can we reconcile the demand for private aviation with struggling private jet resale? According to Thierry Boutsen, the fault lies with an explosion of the number of goods for sale. “Many companies had to sell planes due to a lack of business, but at very low prices.” Boutsen Aviation can sell between 15 and 18 planes in a good year, but by the end of 2020, the company had sold only ten.

2021 will be a bumpy ride

The weakened market wasn’t able to fully get back on its feet despite a small recovery in the fall. At the moment, the future is uncertain. “We cut back on investments and marketing to limit the costs. We’re trying to make up for lost time,“ says Thierry Boutsen. For the time being, Thierry Boutsen says he is still looking for planes to sell, hoping that he will be able to sell them within the year.